Embarrassment is a feeling of awkward self-consciousness or shame. It manifests as a sense of discomfort or even foolishness around others. Feeling embarrassed is emotionally painful because it means you feel uncomfortable with yourself. The problem with embarrassment is that it adds a layer of mental suffering to the difficulties you’re already facing with your health. Here are four reasons why those of us who are chronically ill feel embarrassed at ...

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Comical cartoons about medicine and doctors help to alleviate patient fears, make doctors laugh, nurses think, and everyone else involved in the medical field ponder the value of comics. I have been involved in creating medical cartoons for 40+ years and have created custom cartoons for doctors and hospitals. Have you ever looked at a poster in a doctor's office and felt ...

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There is a haze lurking overhead clouding rational thinking. Thoughts wander back to times when my body was unencumbered, and I felt nothing was out of my grasp.  Maybe that was an unrealistic thought, but it is how youth and inexperience protect one from the somewhat harsh realities of growing older. Coming to terms with chronic health conditions is perplexing. There are days when everything goes just right. The sun is ...

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Let’s get right to it: This is an apology letter to frontline clinicians. And a call to action. I’m a patient advocate, and I’ve spent most of the last 20 years fighting for patient- and family-centered care in national laws and regulations, and in local practice. Prioritizing the needs of patients and families above all else. It is meaningful work to which I feel deeply called, and it is hard work ...

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An excerpt from My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful. Managing chronic illness can leave a person susceptible to emotional and mental health issues that can further exacerbate their physical symptoms.  Post-traumatic stress disorder can often accompany managing a physical illness, and often is the illness that ...

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As I age, the probability of acquiring yet another health condition seems to, unfortunately, increase. There's always one test or another that is on my to-do list, be it bloodwork, X-ray, MRI, or maybe a CT scan thrown in for good measure. I comply usually with a sense that it is for the benefit of my health, i.e., to enable my doctors to determine the best mode of treatment for ...

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For many years after I became chronically ill, I blamed myself for failing to recover my health. I told myself: “You get sick; you get better. It’s as simple as that.” As a result of this stubborn attitude, I refused to set limits, even though it would have been a tremendous help, not only in managing my symptoms but in keeping them from flaring. Learning to set limitations I have a background ...

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I was cleaning out the top shelf of my closet — a location where, hypothetically, treasures can be found. I came upon something that was wrapped in a nondescript brown paper bag that smelled oddly of mothballs. I cautiously reached inside and found an heirloom quilt that apparently had been passed down through generations. I had discovered it an estate sale, and now it had finally come to rest in ...

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According to Wikipedia, a livestock guardian dog is a type of pastoral dog bred for the purpose of protecting livestock from predators. If only our doctors had these noble creatures to protect them from the predators of the world, to alert them when those interested in only the "bottom line" entered the halls of healing, our medical practices. Apparently, a "fox is guarding the hen house," one who is not ...

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Words are powerful. So few symbols can evoke such deep feelings and rouse incredible emotion: "I have a dream." Language is the achievement that makes us who we are. But while you, I and everyone else employ the same words to communicate shared ideas, what those words mean precisely to each of us — among the many views and opinions that make us unique individuals — can be very different. I ...

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Death is an inevitable part of the journey of life. We all have experienced its effects: the death of a family member, the death of a friend or those special individuals who we might have barely known but who left an indelible mark upon our consciousness of living. I will share with you a remembrance of someone who was loved very much by all who knew her and who left the ...

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The mud is deep and thick and black. The smoothness of its surface is deceiving, drawing me closer to it with promises of contentment. It lures those who dare to tread upon it into its hidden depths. Hopes are dashed as one struggles for freedom. It is tenacious: Lift one foot upward and the other sinks deeper into Mother Earth. A sense of futility in escaping its grasp erodes the ...

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I’ve been concerned lately. Here’s why. In 2001, I got sick with what the doctors assumed was an acute viral infection, but I never recovered. I’m mostly housebound, often bedbound. My diagnosis is the little understood (but much misunderstood) myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome or ME/CFS. I describe it as “the flu without the fever.” This means that fatigue is only one of many symptoms I contend with ...

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“The dermatology profession exists for the primary purpose of caring for the patient. The physician-patient relationship is the central focus of all ethical concerns.” - American Academy of Dermatology, Code of Medical Ethics. The doctor-patient relationship is one of profound importance and complexity. And while doctors in training often receive quality mentorship regarding their chosen specialty, many lack good mentors to guide them in the art of the doctor-patient relationship. This is ...

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Doctors are regularly deluged with advice on how to engage patients. But how can you, as a patient, get your doctor to engage with you as a person truly? Your health — and even your life — could depend upon it. A perceived absence of empathy can significantly harm physical and mental well-being. At a recent Society for Participatory Medicine (SPM) conference (I’m a member), three ...

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STAT_Logo My son, Luke, was born 18 months ago with myelomeningocele, the most severe form of spina bifida. Luke and our family have faced many challenges: premature birth at 26 weeks due to complications after in utero surgery for spina bifida; a 171-day stay in the neonatal intensive care unit; 10 surgeries since birth; and more. Throughout ...

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When my father reached his mid-80s, an accelerating accumulation of physical and mental functioning issues persuaded him to switch to a primary care physician in a concierge medical practice. Although the doctor’s pedigree proclaimed his competence, he mostly excelled as the medical equivalent of a hotel concierge who can magically procure hard-to-get restaurant reservations at the last minute. The doctor would see my dad on short notice and make sure he ...

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When I was a preemie — all two-and-a-half pounds of me — my mom was understandably worried. She said her doctor wheeled her down the hall to the newborn nursery, and my mom could hear me screaming all the way down the hall. She said, “I’ve got to hand it to you. You let your voice be heard — you let your needs be known. I told her that at ...

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An excerpt from How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers (Second Edition). Copyright 2018 by Toni Bernhard. Excerpted with permission from Wisdom Publications.  In the years since I’ve been chronically ill, more essential to me than formal meditation has been mindfulness outside of ...

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An excerpt from How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers (Second Edition). Copyright 2018 by Toni Bernhard. Excerpted with permission from Wisdom Publications.  The fifth way I cultivate compassion for myself is to consciously work on opening my heart to the intense emotions ...

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